Third conditionals and mixed conditionals

Conditionals are sentences with two clauses – an ‘if clause and a main clause – that are closely related. Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Third conditional

Third conditional sentences describe the past. They describe something that didn’t happen.

  • If I’d studied harder at school I would have gone to university.

He didn’t study very hard and he didn’t go to university.

  • We wouldn’t have got lost if you hadn’t given me the wrong directions.

She wasn't given the correct directions and she didn't find her way.

  • She might have finished the exam if she’d had more time.

She didn't finish the exam and she didn't have more time.

In third conditional sentences, the structure is usually if + past perfect and would + perfect infinitive (e.g. have done). It’s not important which clause comes first.

Notice that other modal verbs can be used instead of ‘would’ (e.g. ‘could’, ‘might’ ‘may’)

Mixed conditionals

In mixed conditional sentences the time in the ‘if’ clause is not the same as the time in the main clause. There can be various combinations.

  • If he’d gone to university he might have a better job.

He didn’t go to university (past)
He doesn’t have a very good job. (present)
This sentence shows the present consequences of a past action.

  • If I’d won the competition I’d be going to Florida next week.

She didn’t win the competition (past)
She isn’t going to Florida (future)
This sentence shows the future consequences of a past action.

 

Exercise

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Hi, is the following sentence grammatical?

"If you ask me, I would say no."

Yes testuser. .
This sentence is absolutely correct ...in other hand u can say..
IF SHE MET ME, I WOULD HELP HIM. .. I.e she didn't met me

Hello akshaya10,

In fact, testuser's sentence is not correct - see Kirk's answer for details.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello testuser111,

That really depends on the context in which it is used, but in general, no. As I suppose you know, in second conditional sentences the verb after if goes in the past simple: "If you asked me, I would say no."

If, however, "if you ask me" is used as a way of explaining an unsolicited opinion, then it could be used in this way (in the present simple).

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Kirk.

Could you explain more about "explaining an unsolicited opinion"? What if the context is sth like this, "If you ask people about their opinions on this issue, they would give different answers."

When I came across this sentence, I thought it's not grammatical either. But then if the "if" here means "when", does it seem ok?

Thanks a lot!

Hi testuser111,

You're welcome! "If you ask people about their opinions on this issue, they would give different answers" is not correct in standard English, though I'm sure that you could find it in speech. This is because we often adjust our meaning as we speak, and of course we can't go back and correct what we've already said. You could also perhaps find it in writing, though I, like you, would prefer to see ask in the past simple (asked).

If we interpret if to mean when (which is certainly possible), then the verb forms would be either ask and give (speaking about the present or in general) or asked and gave (speaking about the past).

When I mentioned the possibility of an unsolicited opinion, I was referring to if you ask me as a way of expressing your opinion. If you look up the phrase in our dictionary (see the search box on the right), you'll see the definition and example. The word unsolicited is also in the dictionary if it is not clear either, but if what I mean here is still not clear after checking the dictionary, please let me know!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, teachers,
I have some sentences of 3d conditionals to ask you,as i'm not sure if they are correct.
If I have known you had eaten,I wouldn't ask you to go to restaurant with me.
I wouldn't go to cinema with you, if I have seen it before.

thanks in advance.

Hi chenlyfen60,

As is explained above, normally third conditional sentences have a verb in the past perfect form after if and then a verb with would + perfect infinitive in the other part of the sentence. For example, your first sentence should be: "If I had known (past perfect) that you had eaten, I wouldn't have asked (would + perfect infinitive) you..."

With this in mind, why don't you try to correct your second sentence and then we can confirm if it's correct or not?

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher,
I correct my sentence and I add one more, so please correct them for me :
I wouldn't have gone to cinema with you, if I had seen it before.
You would have passed your exams if you had worked hard.

thanks in advance.

Hello chenlyfen60,

The second sentence is fine.  I'd add 'the' before cinema and remove the comma in the first sentence:

I wouldn't have gone to the cinema with you if I had seen it before.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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